How to Create Calls-to-Action that Convert

Posted by Wendy Marx

Calls to action, or CTAs, are more than just a pretty picture. Learn how to use them to draw in leads.

[Editor's Note: Because this post has been so popular, we've updated it with some additional content]

To click or not to click? Ultimately, that IS the question B2B content marketers need to answer through their call-to-action designs. But sometimes, this is much easier said than done.

Sure, you can whip up a CTA in a few seconds with a little text and a brightly colored button shape -- but how successful will it be? What does it really take to produce a call-to-action that makes a difference for B2B lead generation, and improves your B2B PR campaign?

In this post, you will learn:

  • How CTAs fit into your inbound marketing strategy.
  • What expert guides are available to help you create your ideal CTA.
  • What are the best and most effective call to action phrases you can use.
  • What you can learn from real-life B2B call to action examples.

The Ins and Outs of Creating a B2B Call to Action That Converts

What Is a CTA?

Although a CTA comes in many forms -- a simple link, a button, an image with text. It has one primary purpose: to move your audience to the next step. In other words, a CTA tells your audience what to do while at the same time giving prospects the motivation to do it. The stimulus could be to download an informational ebook or sign up for a live event. 

The best CTAs connect to a landing page, where your audience can finish the process. Landing pages usually contain more in-depth information on the offer and its benefits, as well as a form where a prospect can enter his or her information and convert into a lead.

Why Are CTAs Important

You put in a lot of work on a regular basis to create amazing B2B content that attracts visitors to your site in hopes that they become reliable B2B leads. If you don't have a CTA to convert readers into leads, your content is basically a dead end -- meaning a wasted effort on your part.

Some would argue that the CTA is the most important part of your page, even your entire website. Why is that? Well, let's consider some of the potential benefits of an effective CTA.

  • Improved conversion rates
  • Increased lead generation
  • Increased revenue

Bottom line: Without a CTA, your readers will always just be readers, unable to take the next step.

Yet not all CTAs will help you reach your goals. Think back to all the CTAs you've seen over your lifetime of browsing the internet. For all the ones you have seen and not clicked on, there are hundreds or even thousands more that you probably didn't even notice. So what's the secret? What's the difference between CTAs that improve your numbers, and ones that are a wasted effort? Let's find out!

Handpicked Related Content

6 Ways to Make B2B Content Creation a Breeze


 Without a CTA, your readers will always just be readers, unable to take the next step.Tweet: Without a CTA, your readers will always just be readers, unable to take the next step @wendymarx TO TWEET


What Makes a CTA Pop?

There are four primary components to an effective CTA. These are:

  1. Color -- Within human psychology every color has a unique effect on the human brain. For instance, red creates a sense urgency, while blue creates a feeling of trust and green a sense of security.
  2. Size -- Your CTA needs to be big enough to be noticed, without being obnoxious
  3. Placement -- The best place for a CTA is where prospects will see it. In a blog post this might mean in the middle and end of your post. On your home page, this would be "above the fold" so it catches the attention of newcomers.
  4. Phrasing -- While you don't want to weigh your CTA down with too many words, the ones you do use should be strategically chosen. This doesn't mean you must only use a few words; it just means you need to be concise. Another essential of CTA copy is to use action words such as download, grab, or learn to motivate your audience. 

Handpicked Related Content

B2B Lead Generation Best Practices: 6 PR Methods You Need to Know

Click here to get the free ebook: 30 Proven Tips and Tactics to Get New Leads.

Let's dig in a little more and see what other experts have to say on CTAs that convert...

10 Expert Guides to Creating Calls to Action That Convert

1. Unbounce’s Angela Stringfellow stresses the importance of an effective CTA in her piece Your Call to Action is Lame! Here are 10 Ways to Make it Convert Better, delving into what constitutes a bad CTA and how to fix it.

Key Takeaway: Make the offer obvious -- like painfully obvious. Don't leave any doubt in the minds of your readers as to what they will get when they click that button. Use an action word in your title and xplain what readers get in exchange for their information -- if it's a download, you could say Download Your Free Commercial Building Inspection Checklist Today.

2. Coschedule's Julie Neidlinger emphasizes the importance of choosing the right words in her post, How to Write a Call to Action In a Template with 6 Examples. Neidlinger explores the emotions behind the words you choose, and which words will get you more clicks.

Key Takeaway: Create emotion. The right B2B call to action phrases hold incredible power when it comes to your readers' emotions. The most powerful emotion you can create is known as FOMO -- fear of missing out. This strong motivator ignites a sense of urgency. Words and phrases such as Limited Supply, Last Chance, or Limited Time Only are great tools to build that sense of urgency.

Download Your Free Content Calendar


3. Magdalena Giorgieva from HubSpot discusses CTAs from a semantics perspective in 10 Best Practices to Optimize the Language of Your Calls-to-Action. In an excerpt from the company’s CTA eBook, Giorgieva provides 10 tips specific to CTA text phrasing and the implications wording has on lead generation.

Key Takeaway: Convey Value. The inevitable question every customer or lead silently asks: "What's in it for me?" What is the top benefit to your offer? Once you've figured that out, shorten it until you can convey it in just a few words. Remember, a customer needs to see clear value in your offer. 

4. Jeremy Smith from Marketing Land provides insight into the driving force behind effective CTAs with his article, The Power of the Call to Action & How Its Strength Boosts Conversion. From design to placement, Smith explains the best ways to use your CTAs to get results.

Key Takeaway: Place It Prominently On Every Page. Yes, every page is a new opportunity for a click-through. What might escape someone's notice on one page might capture his or her attention on another. Then, make sure it is the visual focus of your page. The side panels and the bottom of the page are two key placements, according to Smith's research. And the more the merrier -- so don't be afraid to sprinkle several CTAs strategically throughout your page!

Handpicked Related Content

How to Boost B2B Leads with SlideShare

5. How to Craft an Effective Call to Action, by Justin Zalewski with Convince & Convert, is an interesting commentary on the psychology of CTAs. It gives helpful advice on how to get to know your audience better, and how this can help improve the effectiveness of your CTAs.

Key Takeaway: Know Your Audience. Don't make arbitrary decisions about CTAs without reflecting on your audience. A/B testing and analytics programs are great ways to create your personalized formula for CTA success. Also, talk with your audience -- learn as much as you can about your prospects' challenges, goals, and motivations. This will help you personalize your CTAs to your buyer persona, and effectively hit your desired mark. 

Handpicked Related Content

The Top 5 Best Practices to Boost B2B Lead Generation

6. Neil Patel from QuickSprout provides his CTA design insights in Click Here: 11 Ways to Improve Your Calls to Action. He covers the basics of location and color, as well as sharing his experiential insights on testing and a little reverse psychology.

Key Takeaway: Colors Matter. That's right, it's about more than wording and placement. Colors play a role in people's emotions. Some colors create a sense of urgency while others create a sense of trust. Whatever color you choose, it needs to stand out -- people won't click on it if blends into its surroundings. Test out several different colors to see which has the highest conversion rate.


Download Our Latest Ebook: 30 Proven Tips & Tactics to Get New Leads


7. Content Marketing Institute's Julie Wingerter reveals the role of interactive calls to action in 5 Interactive Calls to Action That Prospects Can't Resist. Learn how to leverage such fun tools as calculators and quizzes to boost the results of your CTAs.

Key Takeaway: Think Outside the Box. Every once in a while it can help to throw the generic CTA concept out the window and create something new, and make it interactive. Do you hesitate, assuming that interactive CTAs fit best into the B2C space? Throw that assumption aside. It's basic human nature -- people love to interact! Whether it's an assessment of how someone measures up to his peers, or a knowledge test, these out-of-the-box ideas often lead to higher conversion rates.

8. Gigi Griffis, from GatherContent, reveals how planning helps your CTAs in How to Prioritize Calls to Action. Learn how to use a B2B content calendar to plan ahead and choose CTAs that meet your goals.

Key Takeaway: Set Goals. After all, how will you know whether your CTA hits the mark if you don't have a destination in mind? In fact, set multiple goals, and customize your CTAs to each goal, and keep these organized for future use.

9. Call to Action Buttons: Examples and Best Practices by Smashing Magazine’s Jacob Gube digs into CTA design and copy best practices and provides accompanying strong examples for each attribute listed. Although the article is from 2009, Gube’s points remain very relevant to the B2B lead generation landscape today.

Key Takeaway: Use Whitespace to Your Advantage. Whether you call it whitespace or dead space, it's your friend. Place this white space around your CTA button -- it will eliminate distractions and naturally draw eyes to it. 

10. Sprout Social's Dominique Jackson discusses the art of crafting the perfect CTA phrase in his post, Call to Action Phrases That Will Convert. Learn about the psychology and art needed to create emotions of desire and urgency that motivate your prospects to click.

Key Takeaway: Focus on Your Audience's Needs, Not Yours. Your CTA is not about you, your product, or your service -- it's about your customers' needs and wants. How will they personally benefit from clicking on your CTA? Use language that clearly conveys this benefit, and motivates visitors to take that desired action.


Handpicked Related Content

5 Ways to Make Your B2B Content Marketing More Effective

Now that we know what makes an effective CTA, let's see it in action! The following are a few call to action examples can learn from

3 B2B Call to Action Examples We Can All Learn From


This little gem from Hubspot's repertoire has a lot to teach us. You don't need to list a lot of information on your CTA for it be effective.

First off, it leaves no doubt as to what you're getting. Right away you see that it's a CTA for a free live event. Then Hubspot raises this event in our minds with the word "master" -- who of us doesn't want to be a master? And it's simple -- you don't need a lot of information on your CTA for it to be effective.

This CTA also wins points for its clean-cut design and popping colors that draw in the eye. The image also gives you a mental picture of what to expect.

Finally, this CTA creates a sense of urgency with its button language, "Save Your Seat" -- giving the impression of limited space. If you don't do it now, you might lose out. 

Hubspot Call to Action

Neil Patel

This next one is from Neil Patel, marketing and social media guru. He doesn't feel the need to bore his audience with a long list of benefits in this simple and to-the point CTA. He knows how to use white space to his advantage.

The first thing to grab your attention is a simple, but thought provoking, question that plays on your emotions -- because, reallly, who doesn't want more traffic? His next statement reels you in with the firm confidence that he can help you.

The fact that the audience merely needs to put in their URL makes this CTA even more genius. It's not an earth-shattering exchange for information, but it is enough to show his audience what he can offer.

Neil Patel CTA


As Zendesk promotes its newest white paper, it truly follows the less-is-more model. And it work. The white space of this CTA allows your brain to focus on the most important parts.

When we first look at this CTA, our eye is drawn to the question, which touches on a common pain point. As their audience reflects on this question and its meaning for their business, they want to know more. 

The simple picture shows us what we can get if we download this white paper. The boxed button fills in with blue when your mouse hovers over it -- blue being a color that promotes a feeling of trust and confidence. 


Zendesk CTA

Key Points to Keep in Mind...

  • Use clear action words that motivate your readers.
  • Make your CTAs more prominent with contrasting colors and whitespace. 
  • Create emotion in your readers that spurs them to take action.
  • Convey value that your readers can't resist.

CTAs are a fundamental part of effective PR tactics, so make sure yours are the best they can be. If your CTAs aren’t performing the way you want – or even if they are – throw a few of these tried-and-true tips into the mix. We bet you’ll be surprised by the improvement.

What makes your CTAs pop? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below!

 For more helpful information on getting B2B leads, check out our latest ebook, 30 Proven Tips & Tactics to Get New Leads.Click here to get the free ebook: 30 Proven Tips and Tactics to Get New Leads.

You May Also Enjoy Reading...

Nov 2, 2016

Wendy Marx

Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.

Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets. 

View all posts by Wendy Marx